R.I. judge denies WVU's request to dismiss Big East suit

By Chris Dickerson | Dec 29, 2011

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A Rhode Island judge has denied West Virginia University's request to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Big East Conference.

The school argued that the courts in Rhode Island did not have authority to decide the matter and that it should be heard in West Virginia, where the first civil lawsuit in the matter was filed. It also said it can't be sued in Rhode Island because it has sovereign immunity as an agency of the state of West Virginia and that it was not properly notified of the Big East lawsuit.

On Tuesday, Providence County Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein rejected all of WVU's arguments for dismissal. A court spokesman said no timetable for the proceedings has not been determined.

Earlier this month, Monongalia Circuit Court Judge Russell Clawges denied the Big East's motion to dismiss West Virginia University's lawsuit against it. But he did not rule on another motion from the Big East asking the court to move the lawsuit to Rhode Island, the conference's home base.

Then, Clawges told lawyers he wanted more time to consider the motion, and that he will make a decision by Jan. 1.

WVU's move to the Big XII was announced Oct. 28.

Shortly after, Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said the conference intended to hold WVU to a conference bylaw that requires an exiting school to give at least 27 months notice of its departure from the conference.

WVU filed its lawsuit Oct. 31, asking Clawges to void the Big East conference rules and allow the university to go ahead and join the Big XII to begin play in 2012.

The university says it intends to leave the Big East June 30, 2012, and join the Big XII July 1, 2012.

WVU cites the exits of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC, and Texas Christian University's move to the Big XII even before it became an official member of the Big East, as examples of how the Big East has deteriorated as a football conference.

"As the Big East, in less than two months, had denigrated into a non-major football conference whose continued existence is in serious jeopardy, WVU had no choice but to accept the Big XII's offer," WVU wrote in its complaint.

"The denigration of the Big East football conference is a direct and proximate result of ineffective leadership and breach of fiduciary duties to the football schools by the Big East Conference and its commissioner."

Four days after WVU filed its suit in West Virginia, the Big East countersued in Rhode Island. The conference is based in Providence.

Earlier this month, the conference filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in West Virginia. WVU called the Big East's move "a poorly veiled attempt" at changing venues.

The Big East was essentially asking the circuit court in West Virginia to dismiss the lawsuit but asking a Rhode Island court to proceed against WVU on identical claims.

In response, WVU filed the motion to dismiss the Big East's countersuit in Rhode Island.

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